Instructional Design for Beginners

1.3 Exploring online interactions

Online learners and instructors are not only separated by time and distance but also on a transactional level separated by psychological and communicative distance. With the absence of the instructors’ virtual presence, online learners need to feed off of each other, the course material and the activities that are created for them. Hence, the interactions in an online course are significant to the process of learning. In an online environment, students interact with the instructor, with the course content and with each other. Du, Durrington and Mathews (2007) discuss Jiang’s, (1998) study which found that students displayed higher levels of achievement when interactions were given an importance in an online course. 

According to Farahani (2003), “interaction in online asynchronous courses occurs through online discussions, e-mail communications, instructor’s feedback, classmates’ feedback, group class projects, and browsing different online sites pertinent to the discipline” (p. 5). A learning community is formed where interaction occurs between the instructor and student, students to student, and student to course content. “These forms of interactions in online courses are substitutes for traditional (face-to-face) interactions” (p. 5).

Student-teacher interactions are supported in a variety of ways and formats in synchronous and asynchronous communication using text, audio and video (Dixon et. al., 2008). Student-content interactions require learners to develop skills to assimilate instruction. Student-student interactions occur when a learning community is created through group work, discussion forum activities, being a critical friend etc. Then, how best can interaction be integrated in the teaching and learning process?

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